BWCE has secured funding from the Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF) to test the viability of a community owned electric vehicle charging network running on solar power. We are currently embarking on a feasibility study in Bradford on Avon and surrounding villages. If successful, we aim for this area to be the first pilot hub for the network and a model for how we can develop it across other rural areas in our area of benefit.

The aim of the project is to test the viability of a network of electric vehicle charging points that can:

  • Be community funded, owned and operated by BWCE.
  • Run through a combination of solar power and battery storage.
  • Offer flexible capacity to the electricity grid when required during peak demand.
  • Provide surplus income which can be donated to the BWCE Community Fund.

The RCEF funding scheme is administered by the South West Energy Hub, based within the West of England Combined Authority. This funding has enabled us to commission Electric Blue to carry out the feasibility study. They have extensive specialist experience in electric vehicle technology and developing charge point networks, working for local authorities and major transport clients. Currently they are looking for sites with car parking spaces where electric vehicle charge points could be installed. Some suggestions for sites in the Bradford on Avon area have been received but further suggestions are welcome.

In addition to searching for sites the project will:

  • Consult with the owners of potential charging sites.
  • Engage with community groups, local residents, councillors and council officers to assess interest.
  • Talk to organisations elsewhere in the UK who are developing or have implemented similar projects, to learn from their experience.
  • Explore grid connection, planning and land leasing issues.
  • Carry out market research to assess potential usage of the charging network.
  • Assess the financial viability of the model as a community enterprise.

The feasibility study will run up to March 2021. Following the feasibility study BWCE will review the conclusions and make decisions about progressing the project to implement the charging network. If we do proceed to install charging points we will offering investment opportunities for local people in Summer 2021 with installation expected to start in Autumn 2021.

We believe this project has great potential to decarbonise transport in rural areas, improve air quality, enhance community ownership of energy assets, strengthen BWCE partnership working with local communities and provide community benefit through reinvestment of surplus to community funding.

If you want to suggest a site or are interested in supporting the project contact Nick Bird at BWCE [email protected] or call 07517 100889.